As was announced last month, the concerts for the coming tenth season of San Francisco Renaissance Voices (SFRV) have been organized around the unifying theme, Kol Israel: The Voice of Judaism in Early Music. This project is the result of the dedicated efforts of Rabbi Reuben Zellman, currently completing a Master of Music degree at San Francisco State University in the area of early music and Jewish choral repertoire and also a regular member of SFRV, having performed this past June in The Play of Daniel, for which he gave a highly informative pre-concert talk. The first results of Zellman’s work will be presented in San Francisco at the end of the month in a program entitled Music of the Final Judgment & Rejoicing in the Torah.
This title refers to two major events Jewish holidays at this time of year. The first concerns the fact that, at the beginning of every year (in the Jewish calendar), the name of every Jew must be classified in either the book of the wicked or the book of the righteous. (There is also a “not yet classified” book in which some names are held temporarily; and prayers during the High Holy Days at the beginning of the Jewish year are intended to influence that “final judgment.” This traditional belief is documented in the Mishnah.) The second part of the title is basically a translation of the Hebrew phrase Simchat Torah, the name of the last of the High Holy Days, during which the scroll of the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, is rewound back to the very beginning of Genesis, preparing from the next year’s reading of the entire scroll, divided into 54 weekly portions. This is one of the most ecstatic of Jewish holidays, the most ecstatic of the celebrants being the Hasidim.
During both the Renaissance and Baroque periods, these holidays were celebrated with music that often involved collaborations between Jewish and Christian composers. The program resulting from Zellman’s research will include the Cantata Ebraica, composed in Venice in 1681 by Carlo Grossi, as well as the 1733 Italian cantata Dio, Clemenza e Rigore by an unidentified composer published in Casale Monferrato. The program will also include a motet by the Portuguese-Dutch Jewish composer Abraham Caceres setting the Hebrew text L’Eil Eilim (to the Lord or Lords), as well as the polyphony of Salamone Rossi. Finally, there will be settings of texts from both the Psalms and the Song of Songs, as well as a representative sample of synagogue chant as it was practices in the Middle Ages.
As usual, the San Francisco performance of this event will take place at the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church (1329 Seventh Avenue), just south of Golden Gate Park and near the Muni N Line stop at the corner of Irving Street and Seventh Avenue. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 28, with a pre-concert talk by Zellman beginning at 7:15 p.m. Tickets may be purchased through a Brown Paper Tickets event page. General admission is $25, with a $20 rate for students and seniors and $15 for children aged twelve or younger.